One could be forgiven for thinking the Gorbals was in the midst of being demolished. Opposite the Citizens Theatre, after all, there’s a huge mountain of rubble landscaping a gap site where a high rise block used to stand. The theatre itself, however, remains, even though the recent departure from the building of artistic director Jeremy Raison suggests one of Glasgow’s boldest institutions is itself undergoing a period of reconstruction and regeneration.
While a puff of smoke announcing a successor to Raison is a long way off yet, far from crawling from the wreckage, the announcement this week of the theatre’s Spring 2011 season as exclusively revealed by the Herald suggests a theatre in rude health. As well as the Citz’s own main stage production of Marilyn, a new play by Sue Glover commissioned by Raison and co-produced with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre as highlighted on these pages several weeks ago, the season will feature major collaborations with Scottish Opera and the National Theatre of Scotland. There will be visits too from some of the finest touring theatre companies in Britain, with a significant strand of modern Irish classics gracing the Citz’s stage alongside a lateral look at Shakespeare.
“We’re very pleased with the spring season,” explains Citz Administrative Director Anna Stapleton in the absence of an artistic head. “Marilyn alone is quite important for us, as it’s the first brand new play for the Citizens main stage we’ve done for some time, but there’s so much else going on around it.”
Much of the season indeed concentrates on new writing, a somewhat surprising turn of events for a theatre more associated with reworking the classics. While clearly stemming from Marilyn, its store is set from the start with a co-production of two new family works in collaboration with Scottish Opera. The double bill of Orlando Gough and Jehanne Markham’s On The Rim of the World and Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow, written by Martin Riley and featuring a score by Music at the Brewhouse’s Stephen Deazley, is designed for audiences aged seven and upwards. Citizens directors Elly Goodman and Neil Packham will rehearse a cast of fifty drawn from the theatre’s Community Company in the former, children’s theatre maverick Andy Manley will incorporate Scottish Opera’s own community-based Connect Company onto this Hillaire Belloc inspired tale.
While the Citz’s community-based work continues throughout the season, so does professional artistic development, as the latest incumbent of the theatre’s trainee directors scheme mounts their own in-house production. Amanda Gaughan has chosen to work on After The End, Dennis Kelly’s 2005 play that explores a relationship between two people in a nuclear bunker. First produced by new writing company Paines Plough, Kelly’s play was a hit at the Traverse as part of the Edinburgh theatre’s Festival Fringe season.
Paines Plough themselves visit the Citizens for the first time with Mike Bartlett’s play, Love, Love, Love, while the Traverse are one of the partners in Reveal, a yet to be announced mini season of new work produced in association with the National Theatre of Scotland. This will include one fully staged production alongside a series of works-in-progress and play-readings.
The NTS will also be bringing to Glasgow the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Dunsinane, David Greig’s audacious history play that picks up from where Shakespeare’s Macbeth ended. Another reimagining of Shakespeare comes in Headlong’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which sets things in Hollywood. This location fits in too with Marilyn, which is itself complimented by DEATH, Dumb, Blonde, a solo thriller as seen through the eyes of drag act Marilyn Mundane as performed by Neil Doherty for the Glasgow-based director’s fledgling Seenunseen company.
With everything connecting up so seamlessly in terms of themes, Shared Experience further deconstruct the greats in Bronte. Written by Polly Teale, who directed Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at the Citz earlier this year, Bronte looks beyond fiction to the private lives of what are probably the most famous ladies of letters.
Another high-profile visit comes from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, who bring Mark O’Rowe’s 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit, Terminus, to Glasgow. This magical-realist look at life and death is told through a series of monologues, a form used to great effect by veteran Irish writer Brian Friel in works such as Faith Healer and Molly Sweeney. Rather than focus on them, however, the Original Theatre Company bring a production of Friel’s seemingly more conventional Dancing at Lughnasa to Glasgow. This tale of five women getting by in a remote Irish village is a more domestic counterpoint to Terminus
“One of our key ambitions is not just to have partnerships with the movers and shakers of Scottish theatre,” Stapleton points out, “but to work with some of the best companies in the UK and beyond as well.”
Dots are certainly joined throughout the season in a way that looks too good to be true.
“Sometimes it doesn’t always work when you try to plan up to twelve months ahead,” Stapleton admits. “This can be down to quite mundane things like the timing being right, but here we laid the foundations and everything somewhat surprisingly fell into place so that all the different strands and connections are very plain to see. It feels ambitious, ambitious and exciting. Most of all it feels connected, confident and the right sort of programme to be doing at this time.”
Stapleton, it should be pointed out, is no mere back-room mouthpiece. With more than thirty years experience as an administrator running the likes of Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre as well as playing a key role with Arts Council England prior to her decade-long tenure at the Citz, her contribution to what happens within the building’s artistic programme remains crucial. Talking as she is just after the Scottish Government’s budget announced standstill funding for Creative Scotland in the run up to election year, Stapleton remains cautiously optimistic, even as the broadness of the Citz’s programme, which includes music, comedy and cabaret, reflects the new austerity culture.
“As a cultural industry we can’t argue that we’re a special case,” Stapleton says. “We have to work with other people to ensure that all the work we do for the people of Glasgow goes on, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Stapleton is keen too to point out the input that both Raison and his co-artistic director Guy Hollands, whose continuing role at the Citz has yet to be defined, had in the programming.
“We all worked on it very closely together,” Stapleton says. “Jeremy took the lead, then went into rehearsals for A Clockwork Orange as things were being firmed up. Then we moved a few things around, and it’s become a season that we’re all very happy about. You’ve got to be confident in this climate, and the Citizens Theatre is bigger than anyone. It’s not only that it’s been here so long, but you have to build for the future as well. I feel very confident at the moment that with all the developments that have occurred in the theatre over the last five years with the community work and everything else, that we’ve got a much stronger platform for a new director coming in than we ever had before. At the moment you couldn’t want for anything more.”
Tickets for the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow’s Spring 2011 season are on sale now
The Herald, November 30th 2010